Author Topic: Aztecs: Arrival of Cortes and the Conquistadors  (Read 222 times)


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Re: Blood memory
« on: May 30, 2022, 12:14:58 am »
The Genetic Legacy of the Spanish Inquisition

As Spain simultaneously persecuted its Jews and expanded its colonies in the Americas, conversos secretly came over to the New World. Their legacy lives on in DNA.
Spain did not allow converts or their recent descendants to go to its colonies, so they traveled secretly under falsified documents. “For obvious reasons, conversos were not eager to identify as conversos,” says David Graizbord, a professor of Judaic studies at the University of Arizona. The designation applied not just to converts but also to their descendants who were always Catholic. It came with more than a whiff of a stigma. “It was to say you come from Jews and you may not be a genuine Christian,” says Graizbord. Conversos who aspired to high offices in the Church or military often tried to fake their ancestry.

The genetic record now suggests that conversos—or people who shared ancestry with them—came to the Americas in disproportionate numbers. For conversos persecuted at home, the fast-growing colonies of the New World may have seemed like an opportunity and an escape. But the Spanish Inquisition reached into the colonies, too. Those found guilty of observing Jewish practices in Mexico, for example, were burned at the stake.

Chacón-Duque and his colleagues pieced together the genetic record by sampling DNA from 6,500 people across Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru, which they compared to that of 2,300 people all over the world. Nearly a quarter of the Latin Americans shared 5 percent or more of their ancestry with people living in North Africa and the eastern Mediterranean, including self-identified Sephardic Jews. DNA alone cannot prove that conversos were the source of this ancestry, but it fits with the historical record.
Geneticists have also noticed rare genetic diseases prevalent in Jews popping up in Latin America. “It’s not just one disease. It’s like, wow, this isn’t a coincidence,” says Harry Ostrer, a geneticist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. In 2011, Ostrer and his colleagues decided to study two populations—in Ecuador and Colorado—with unusually high prevalence of two mutations often found in Jews. (One mutation was in the breast-cancer gene BRCA1, and the other caused a form of dwarfism called Laron syndrome.) And indeed, they found enriched Sephardic Jewish ancestry in the 53 people they tested.

I think this speaks more for the demographic makeup of who the colonists were, rather than the character of Latinos today. Especially since:
By the 17th century, Graizbord says, most conversos had assimilated and lost any connection to Jewish customs.

But, after 300 years, this heritage has nevertheless reasserted itself in many...
Today, some of their descendants are reclaiming their Jewish identity. They can join Jewish genealogy groups. Some have even converted to Judaism. DNA tests are fanning interest, too. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the New York politician whose family comes from Puerto Rico, recently revealed during a Hanukkah event that she has Sephardic Jewish ancestry.

Of course, the non-Jewish colonizers weren't any better:
Before Chacón-Duque joined this study as a scientist, he had actually submitted his own DNA as a participant. He, like the thousands of others who volunteered, was curious about his own ancestry. He grew up in northwest Colombia, and he had heard the stories. It was a local custom to slaughter a pig for festivities, and it was said that you ate pork publicly to prove you were not a Jew. From that and other tales passed through his family, he had wondered. It turns out he has converso ancestry, too.